PCs to introduce bill for new licence to help bring ride-hailing to N.S.

Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative party plans to introduce a bill later this month to remove some barriers for ride-hailing companies in the province.

The PCs want to create a new category of licence, called a restricted Class 4 licence, for drivers of Uber, Lyft and other apps.

Tim Houston made the announcement at the party’s annual general meeting on Sunday.

“We believe this is something we need in Nova Scotia because this is something Nova Scotians want,” he said in an interview.

“Certain ride-sharing companies have identified a hurdle in the current licensing structure. And what we’re saying is we agree with them.”

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston speaks to media on Sunday after announcing that the party will put forward a bill to help bring ride-hailing to the province. (Stephanie Blanchet/CBC)

Under the proposed legislation, people who drive these vehicles would be required to pass a criminal background check every two years, hold a valid Class 5 licence for at least three years, and complete a “rigorous training program.”

This includes covering topics like safe driving, conflict resolution and diversity training.

These drivers would not have to complete the full Class 4 licence requirements, such as extra driving tests, an eye exam and a medical checkup.

“It’s just a barrier and I think when you acknowledge that they have a Class 5 and they’ve had it for three years, that we have to respect that,” he said.

Taxi and limousine drivers currently require a Class 4 licence. So do drivers of ambulances and small buses.

Real-time feedback

But Houston said a priority for him is passenger safety.

He said the ride-hailing companies have “one very, very clear advancement that’s an advantage for passenger safety, and that’s the ability of people to instantaneously provide feedback on the type of service they received, feedback on the driving ability of the driver.

“I think that real-time assessment is something that shouldn’t be discounted. It’s very valuable to passengers.”

Houston said the proposed bill would still give municipalities the ability to regulate how many people are offering these services in their communities, or reject the presence of Uber and Lyft altogether.

“I would be hopeful that [municipalities] would be open-minded and not put up hurdles to it,” he said.

Houston said they looked to P.E.I., Toronto and New York City, who all have similar frameworks in place.

Last month, Halifax regional council passed another hurdle in bringing ride-hailing services to the city.

If passed, the new bill would require drivers of companies like Uber and Lyft to obtain a restricted Class 4 licence. (CBC)

But Houston said if history is any indication, he’s aware this bill may not pass.

“This majority government has not been very open to ideas from anyone but their own caucus,” he said.

“If the Liberals don’t pass the bill in this session, then we’ll try again. And ultimately as premier, I will do it.”

The next session of the legislature begins on Feb. 20.

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